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The Royal Game

The exact origin of chess is in the dark, it probably has its beginnings in the 3rd century in India. Even the authors of the first medieval chess books ("Schachsabelbuecher") interpret the play as an instructive exercise for the knightly virtues, whether in military or in social issues. Since its beginnings chess is regarded as a strategy game, at the same time it provides a symbolic image of the social hierarchy of medieval society with king, warriors and infantry. Only at that time the figures of chess changed into their nowadays known forms, the Arab vizier becomes the Queen, the Indian elephant the bishop, the chariot becomes the rook.

There are these characters of the chess game that Jürgen Buhre deals with in his new paintings. They provide the formal models for his devotion to images in which he discovers the figuration anew for himself. Out of his to a few lines reduced stick people often become sprawling bodies.

These figures are set spontaneously onto the canvas with thickly applied paint. Brush marks and pasted application of paint are left deliberately. The color runs to sweeping rivulets. It piles up. Almost relief-like forms with furrows and crusts emerge partly. Sometimes these massive clusters color shine in a very peculiar luster.

Out of these tracks that are always a part of the painting process the figures form almost by chance. They remain more or less identifiable as characters of chess. This figurations develop a very unique plasticity. They seem spatially. They gain a unique physicality, a peculiar severity. They seem to float in front of the picture background. This underground of the figures Jürgen Buhre designed in a deliberately flat painting style, several thin layers of paint are applied over one another, rarely a space develops that is determined by the color.

Jürgen Buhre goes one step further with some of these works.These paintings become objects. He forms body shapes out of old, used paint rags, which protude as reliefs out of the surface. They stand out even more from the background. These figures seem even more spatial and moving due to the almost swelling textiles. Dealing with the raw material - color soaked old rags - appears more playful. These works, despite their often twisted limbs, win a certain kind of lightness and movement. The textile raw material also creates associations of clothing in the observer.

In more recent pictures figure and background have separated from each other rather strictly. The figures stand out from the background. Sometimes they are emphasized by a kind of halo, of color or shade. They act as if on a stage made from flowing colors. They become protagonists of the pictorial narrative.

Color is rather rare in these works. Jürgen Buhre has - similar to the game of chess - mostly reduced them to black and white contrasts, a little red, orange or green sets accents quite deliberately.

Jürgen Buhre‘s new works have become more figurative. First they are abstracted figures. Some show references to the chess characters quite obviously, there are the typical crosses as a marking of the king. With others, Jürgen Buhre detaches himself more and more from these models. This figurations act as images of people. Some remind of insect-like creatures of distant worlds with their thin limbs and stretched heads.

This is obvious in his work "Young White Lady". There is a confident woman with wide sweeping skirts and arms like thin tentacles completely symmetrical in the painting. Her position in the image reminds of baroque portraits of queens in their hoop skirts.

The game of chess with its characters is more than just an excuse for a turn to figuration for Jürgen Buhre. Chess is a symbol of life in these pictures. For Jürgen Buhre, the relations of people are always expressed through it.

Jürgen Buhre addresses in the works the significance that may stand behind these figures. There is a cool strategist, an ancient king, a confident queen. It is about power, about insistence, self-confidence, but also about defeats and losses. In his exhibition at the Artists’ Coal Mine Unser Fritz, the paintings - the figures – begin to react to each other. The old King is ever under threat of being beaten by a young rival. Jürgen Buhre‘s paintings begin to tell stories. The titles of the works provide some clues, but they also leave enough space for own associations and interpretations.

Falko Herlemann